Ball suffered a broken wrist in a game against the LA Clippers on March 20 and is likely gone for the season. Even if he makes it back a week before the playoffs start, there’s very little chance he will have enough games to merit the award.
Can another rookie mirror his impact on the stat sheet and in the win column?
There are two players who are the top candidates to be named the NBA’s ROTY with Ball out indefinitely, but three others have an outside shot at stealing it.
5 candidates for the 2020-21 NBA Rookie of the Year award
5. Jae’Sean Tate (Houston Rockets)
Key Stats: 10.6 points / 5.4 rebounds / 1.1 steals / 52.0% FG
Jae’Sean Tate became a starter early in the 2020-21 NBA season. He works both ends of the floor with equal passion and can play multiple positions.
The 6-foot-4 guard also has a feel for the game that belies his young exterior. When he had 13 points and 10 assists versus the Spurs on January 14, he became the first Houston Rockets rookie since Steve Francis to record double-figures in points and assists.
There’s also the March 22 game where he became the first player in franchise history since Francis to register a 20-5-5 game, with 22 points, six rebounds and five assists. Needless to say, Tate is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise dreary season for one of the NBA's worst teams.
4. Saddiq Bey (Detroit Pistons)
Key Stats: 10.6 points / 4.1 rebounds / 39.5% 3-PT FG
Playing on one of the NBA’s worst teams this season has its privileges, particularly for rookies who have potential. Saddiq Bey has started in 28 games for the Detroit Pistons but became a regular in game No. 27. He has never been a bench player since.
What led to the promotion? It was his 30-point, 12-rebound game versus the Boston Celtics two days before Valentine’s Day. He shot 10-of-12 from the field in just 27 minutes during the game.
The Villanova product became the first rookie this season to make at least 100 threes when he made 5-of-7 from three-point range in a 118-104 win over the Toronto Raptors on Monday. It was his sixth game with at least five threes. That’s the most ever by a Detroit Pistons rookie in franchise history.
3. Immanuel Quickley (New York Knicks)
Key Stats: 12.5 points / 2.3 rebounds / 2.3 assists / 37.2% 3-PT FG
The 25th pick of last year’s NBA Draft earned his minutes by playing fearlessly while being aware of his boundaries. That’s an important trait for a rookie who’s playing with veterans like Elfrid Payton, Derrick Rose and Julius Randle.
In minutes played per game, Immanuel Quickley is only 16th among first-year players who have at least 20 games under them.
However, in his 19.9 minutes a game, he is fourth in points among his peers while playing on a team that’s headed for the NBA Playoffs if the season ended today.
During the Knicks’ 140-121 victory on February 25, Quickley scored 25 points in just 20 minutes. That’s on 5-of-10 shooting from the field and 12-of-12 from the line.
2. Anthony Edwards (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Key Stats: 17.3 points / 4.4 rebounds / 2.5 assists / 1.0 steals
If scoring was the ultimate test for who wins the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award, Anthony Edwards would win hands down. Scoring is his forte, and he’s not bashful about it by any stretch.
Against the Phoenix Suns on March 18, Edwards exploded for 42 points on 15-of-31 shooting from the field. In doing so, he became the NBA’s third-youngest player ever to score 40+ points behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant. For the month, he averaged 24.2 points per game, which is the third-highest average in a month by a teenager in league history.
The only thing separating the 2020 NBA Draft's No. 1 overall pick and the top player on this list is decision-making and impact on his team.
1. Tyrese Haliburton (Sacramento Kings)
Key Stats: 13.2 points / 3.3 rebounds / 5.0 assists / 1.3 steals
When Ball won the NBA's Eastern Conference rookie award for January and February, Tyrese Haliburton took home the Western Conference award.
After Sacramento Kings coach Luke Walton decided to start Haliburton in a three-guard lineup to start games, the team went 7-2. The trio of Halliburton, De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield has been successful primarily because of the Iowa State product’s versatility. At 6-foot-5, he is able to play the three perimeter positions naturally.
Overall, his shooting numbers have been outstanding even when compared to NBA veterans. He’s making 48.6 percent from the field, 42.3 percent from three and 87.2 percent from the line. Among rookies, he’s third in scoring, second in assists, second in three-point percentage among those who have played at least 35 games, and third in minutes.